Written by Grace Hayden, GEI Associate
After months of protests, push-back and petitions, Italy has finally passed a ban prohibiting large cruise ships from accessing Venice's historic area. Although the ban offers significant protection for the "Queen of the Adriatic", it also threatens its local tourism industry and effectively the job stability of one of the most important areas of employment in the city, forcing officials to develop creative solutions.
After a long and conflict-ridden battle, large cruise ships have officially been banned from Venice's historic center. Although the ban was initially struck down at a regional tribunal, after countless celebrities from the likes of Sir Michael Caine and Cate Blanchette got involved, the Italian government seemed to experience a change of heart. The new ban, which will go into effect in 2015, calls for all cruise ships over 96,000 tons to be barred from entering Saint Mark's Basin and the Giudecca Canal. Additionally, it will permit only ships of 40,000 tons or less to visit the city. The ban ensures the world heritage site greater safety, a concern that has been accentuated since the unfortunate Costa Concordia crash of 2012 that left 32 dead and the 115,000 ton cruise ship in a scrap yard. Moreover, the ban works to protect the medieval city from the strain the vibrations of the giant cruise ships place on buildings' foundations.
However, greater protection comes at the cost of economic stimulation. In a city where the population has dropped to just 60,000 people, the cruise ship industry employs 10,000. Officials hope to develop a plan that will allow Venice to regain its prominence as a center for trade like it once was during the age of maritime republics. "Venice cannot just be a heritage Disneyland preserved in mothballs. That is a vision of necrophiliacs. Without a busy port, Venice will die. The platform would enable the Adriatic, not only Venice but also Trieste, to resume a role in world trade," Mr Paolo Costa, former mayor and current port authority president expressed to Corriere della Sera newspaper.
With a plan in the works set to cost around 2 billion euros, Mr. Costa hopes to build an offshore mega-port to re-establish Venice's role as a center for trade on the Adriatic sea. The new port would be located 8 miles offshore in an area with 70-foot sea-depth - enough space to accommodate even the largest cruise ships in the world. Furthermore, the port would feature an oil terminal, and have a 3 mile-long causeway, allowing Venice to protect both its important industry and its lagoon.